Chapter published in:Style, Rhetoric and Creativity in Language: In memory of Walter (Bill) Nash (1926-2015)
Edited by Paul Simpson
[Linguistic Approaches to Literature 34] 2019
► pp. 77–84
Chapter 4Riddling: The dominant rhetorical device in W. H. Auden’s “The
This chapter focuses on rhetorical and stylistic patterns in W. H. Auden’s “The Wanderer” (1966). After a preliminary stylistic analysis of the poem’s sound, grammar and vocabulary, the author shifts to consider aspects of the wider discoursal context in which Auden’s poem is framed. This enlarging of the poem’s context is assisted through the incorporation of relevant particulars from Auden’s biography, from around the time the poet was writing “The Wanderer”. It is pointed out how Auden himself talked of his fascination with Anglo-Saxon poetry, with its metrical and rhetorical devices. The chapter also explores the ways in which a stronger interpretation of the poem can be reached by positioning the poem’s language against the phonological and rhetorical arrangements of Anglo-Saxon poetry. Particular attention is paid both to the rhetorical device of kenning and to the stylistic and rhetorical composition of riddles in the Exeter Book. The chapter concludes that a rounder and more productive reading of Auden’s “The Wanderer” can be reached when it is informed by knowledge of the rhetorical and stylistic features of its literary precursor.
- 1.A preliminary reading
- 2.Discussion: Style and tone
- 2.1Text, context, discourse
- 2.2Metrical and rhetorical devices in Old and Middle English literature
- 3.The Anglo-Saxon riddles and poems in the Exeter book
- 4.Poetry and play in the Exeter Book riddles
Published online: 28 November 2019
1928 Auden’s first published collection of poems, published by Stephen Spender. At: https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/poems-audens-first-published ( 23 May 2018).
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